Gospel according to John (4:5-15,19b-26,39a, 40-42)
JESUS came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of land that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there. Jesus, tired from his journey, sat down there at the well. It was about noon.
A woman of Samaria came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” His disciples had gone into the town to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, “How can you, a Jew, ask me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” — For Jews use nothing in common with Samaritans. — Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you, do not even have a bucket and the cistern is deep; where then can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us this cistern and drank from it himself with his children and his flocks?” Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who “drink this water will be thirsty again; but whoever drink the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to, him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”
I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain; but you people say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.” Jesus said to her, “Believe me, woman, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You people worships what you do not understand; we worship what we understand, because salvation is from the Jew. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; and indeed the Father seeks such people to worship him. God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that the Messiah is coming, the one called the Christ; when he comes, he will tell us everything.” Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one who is speaking with you.”
Many of the Samaritans of that town began to believe in him. When the Samaritans came to him, they invited him to stay with them; end he stayed there two days. Many more began to believe in him because of his word, and they said to the woman, “We no longer believe because of your word; for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the savor of the world.”
Jews were forbidden from entering Samaritan territory. When the Assyrians invaded northern Israel in 721 BCE and exiled the Israelites, they brought in foreigners to repopulate the abandoned lands. The descendants of these foreigners who married the remaining Israelites were later called Samaritans.
To the Jews, Samaritans were usurpers of portions of the Promised Land. To step into their towns defiled them. Nonetheless, Jesus instead of walking around their villages willfully entered them.
Jesus further scandalized his disciples by conversing with a woman by the well. A woman was prohibited from being seen in public with a man, except her husband, brother or father. Jesus disregarded such restrictive norms and initiated a conversation with a woman who was by herself.
Moreover, Jesus confounded his followers by asking for water from the Samaritan woman.
The purity laws of Israel dictated that since the Samaritans were enemies of God, drinking water from their wells contaminated them. Nonetheless, Jesus drank from their well, defiling himself interiorly.
Then Jesus speaks of the living water that he alone offers, “whoever drinks of the water I shall give will never thirst” (Jn.4:15). The Samaritan woman misunderstands him, thinking that the living water he was referring to was a stream of running waters.
During the dry months, the village wells run dry. The women thus searched for streams from which they could draw clean, running water, which they called living water.
But the living water Jesus offered was the water of salvation which quenched all thirsts. Jesus himself is the water of salvation and to accept the water he offers is to place one’s faith in him.
Jesus sees into the woman’s troubled heart, informing her that she has had five husbands and was not married to her current partner (Jn. 4:19). The woman immediately realizes he is a prophet, is converted and shares with her neighbors the renewal she experiences, through her encounter with Jesus.
As we commemorate the Third Sunday of Lent, we name the troubles of our hearts, the disquiet due to our dysfunctions. We come to Jesus who does not distinguish between Jew or Samaritan; virtuous or sinner, man or woman and express to him our yearning for the living waters that satiates all our longings.
As the Samaritan woman encountered God’s inclusive, merciful love in Jesus, we pray we also encounter God’s unconditional love in Christ crucified for whom no one is an enemy of God. We pray that the water that flows from his body be living waters that renew and reconcile us with God and one another. – Fr. Manoling V. Francisco, SJ